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November, 1986, Vol. 109, No. 11
Missed work and
lost hours, May 1985
On any given day, some people do not show up at work for one reason or another. These unscheduled absences can disrupt the work flow and raise costs such as sick pay and the hiring of temporary help. Absences may also result in a reduction in product quality and low morale among the workers who get additional duties passed onto them.
According to data collected in May 1985 from the Current Population Survey (CPS), about 4.7 percent of the full-time nonfarm workers had an absence in a typical week caused by illness, injury, civic duties, or personal reasons. The proportion of hours lost was 2.6 percent of the potential that would have been worked during the survey's reference week. These absence figures were substantially lower than those last obtained in a 1980 survey. In fact, they showed the first decline since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began estimating absences in 1973.
The proportion of full-time wage and salary workers who had an absence which kept them from working at least 35 hours per week declined by more than 20 percent between May 1980 and May 1985. An absence measure computed by the Bureau of National Affairs from entirely different data has also shown a similar decline over the same period.1 In addition to a decline in the percent of workers absent from work, the CPS shows that the percent of total worktime lost because of absences also declined by more than 20 percent during the period mentioned.2 (See table 1.)
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1 Quarterly Report on Job Absence and Turnover, 2d Quarter 1985 (Washington, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Sept. 5, 1985).
2 The situation in these 2 particular months (May 1980 and May 1985) may not be totally representative of the trend in absences over this 5-year period. However, separate estimates of absences based on CPS data for the 12 months of 1980 and 1985, showed declines well in excess of 10 percent.
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